Theater Review: Harold Pinter’s 1978 work Betrayal at Steppenwolf

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117277932825080.jpg’, ‘Photo by Michael Brosilow’, ‘Ensemble member Amy Morton in Betrayal by Harold Pinter, directed by ensemble member Rick Snyder. The production plays in the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre through May 27. For tickets, visit or call 312-335-1650.‘);

Harold Pinter’s extensive work began in the 1950s, and he became one of Great Britain’s most renowned playwrights. Emerging soon after World War II, his plays epitomized the search for truth. He says, “Truth in drama is forever elusive… You never quite find it, but the search for it is compulsive.”

Steppenwolf was founded in 1976, and in their first season, staged Pinter’s The Lover and The Dumbwaiter. Betrayal is the first time in 15 years that the company again takes the playwright’s work to the audience. Performed in Steppenwolf’s upstairs space reconfigured for a proscenium stage, the stage set is classic minimalism. A few pieces of furniture and sliding panels represent several locations, and ensemble members restage each scene.

The play moves from 1978 to 10 years earlier in the lives of Emma (Amy Morton), her husband Robert (Tracy Letts) and their best friend Jerry (Ian Barford). Emma and Jerry reminisce over a glass of wine. Recalling their long-time affair and its implications, they still remain friends. As the play moves to the past, the year of the action lights up over the stage, and costumes revert to the age of the hippies.

The complete focus on these three people seems at times… much ado about nothing. In the age of conflict on a worldwide basis, the hidden sexual relationship of two upper-middle-class Brits becomes inconsequential. The sexual revolution of the ’70s is Pinter’s focus, and when Betrayal was written, it may have been significant, but times change.

Betrayal runs through May 27. The season continues with The Diary of Anne Frank in the Downstairs Theatre opening April 5, running through May 10. Several social events are scheduled, including the annual Gala May 5. Ensemble member Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will entertain. Further information can be had by calling (312) 335-1650.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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